Miso is an umami-rich paste made by mixing beans (historically, soybeans), salt, and koji, a grain (usually rice) which has been inoculated and fermented with a mold, Aspergillus oryzae. The flavor and complexity of miso is unmatched even compared to other fermented dishes. It is at once savory, sweet, salty, and powerful.
White miso is lighter and sweeter than its more popular and traditional cousin, red miso (akamiso). That’s due to the shorter fermentation time, and higher ratio of koji (which is carbohydrate-rich and produces a sweeter finished product). Many modern commercial white misos are “cooked” rather than fermented, creating a finished product in a matter of days, not weeks.
The easiest way to start making miso is to buy pre-made dried koji (grains, usually rice or barley, which have been inoculated with the A. oryzae mold culture). Local Asian markets usually carry dried “firm granular” koji. You can also find online merchants like this one.
The making of miso…
- 200 grams (about 1.5 cups) dried beans (chickpea, adzuki, or other legume)
- 500 grams (about 3.5 cups) dried firm granular or fresh koji
- fine sea salt
- 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons/8 ml) mature miso
- filtered water
- wide mouth canning jar, 1 quart/liter
- wide mouth glass weight or small jar which fits inside mouth of vessel
- paper grocery bag, or tight-woven canvas or cloth bag (in which vessel can fit)
- masking or packing tape
- Soak beans in 3 times the weight of filtered water overnight (up to 24 hours).
- Drain beans from soaking liquid.
- Bring ½ gallon (2L) of filtered water to a boil, then add beans and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until soft (cooking time varies by bean).
- Drain beans over a colander placed over a bowl or container to capture about a cup (250ml) of the bean cooking liquid. Add 400 grams of cooked beans to a large mixing bowl.
- Make a 4% salt brine with the cooking liquid you reserved (250g water x .04 = 10g salt). Dissolve salt in the cooking liquid. If using fresh koji, you may not need to add brine. Let brine mixture cool down to 100°F/38°C.
- Mash the beans, leaving about ¼ of them intact.
- Add mature miso to the beans. Stir until it is incorporated.
- Once bean mixture has cooled down down to 100°F/38°C, add the warm brine and then stir in koji. Mix Until well incorporated (5 minutes or so). The koji will absorb the cooking liquid.
- You should be able to make balls with the mixture. If it crumbles in your hand, add more of the cooking liquid.
- Pack the vessel with the mixture, ensuring there are no air bubbles in the jar.
- Once packed, tap jar on top of a towel or wooden cutting board several times to ensure that any air bubbles in the mixture come to the surface.
- Add a salt layer to the top of the mixture.
- Add a weight such as a glass jar, bottle or fermentation weight to the top of the mixture. This will weigh it down and allow the tamari to rise to the surface during fermentation.
- Carefully place the vessel into a paper or canvas/cloth bag. Staple and/or tape it shut so no insects can enter. Write the date on the bag.
- Store it in a warmish room (80°F/27°C) space for at least six weeks, up to 10 weeks.
- Carefully open the bag and remove the vessel.
- Remove the weight. Scoop off any funky mold from the top surface.
- Blend into a smooth paste using a blender, food processor, etc.
- Pack contents into a glass jar. If using a metal lid, add a layer of parchment paper between the metal lid and the lip of the jar.
- Store in the refrigerator. Lasts several months or maybe years.
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